Parshas Behar – Are The Commandments Rational?

By: Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui


One of the commandments in the Bible, is to observe the Sabbatical year as, a “Sabbath unto G-d”. In Israel, every seventh year (the next one is in three years), we must not work our fields, and essentially we must allow anyone access to them. Just as it is with the six days of the week, and the seventh day is Sabbath, elevated from the other six days, a day of holiness, dedicated to G-d, we are not allowed to work, so is the seventh year – a year unto G-d.

This is not to say that a person is free from any G-dly considerations throughout the week. King Solomon the wisest of all men advises us, “In ALL your ways, know G-d.” Everything, a person does, if it is to be imbued with blessings from the creator of the world, there must be some G-dly intent and purpose in doing that act. When we eat, we make a blessing before we put the food in our mouths, and we have in mind to gain strength to serve G-d throughout the day by acting honestly and kindly with people.

A person must pray every day, study the bible, conduct his business in an honest and ethical manner, and must be careful not to encroach on the territory of other people. He earns money so he can give charity. So, in actual fact a person can, and should be, always connected to a higher purpose.

However, when it comes the seventh day of the week, Sabbath, we are commanded to sanctify the day with holiness and G-dliness even more so than the six days. The same is when it comes the seventh year. The land will rest, a Sabbath unto G-d. The seventh year is a special opportunity, for a person to put less attention and emphasis on the materialistic, and dedicate more attention towards the spiritual.

A person has an obligation to make wherever he lives, a “spiritual land of Israel.” If the actual land of Israel represents a place where G-d is more manifest, a person must make out of his own surroundings, out of his own immediate environment, a higher awareness of spirituality and G-dliness. Although the actual laws of the sabbatical year applies to the land of Israel, in its life lessons, the message is applicable to all people and to all places.

The Bible itself tells us, this is a book communicated and presented by G-d Himself. It’s instructions, its promises; they all come from a higher realm. They don’t always make sense in our small human minds. Some people feel the need to explain the reason for every observance in a rational way, and they attempt to explain, the observance of the Sabbatical is because, after working the ground for six years, the earth can use some rest to replenish its strength.

If this commandment had its basis in logic, then the promise G-d gives, “I will command my blessing for you on the sixth year, and the land will produce for three years…” (The sixth, the seventh and the eights …) is totally nonsensical. If the purpose of the Sabbatical is to allow the ground to rest, why would G-d say that in the sixth year, when the land would be most worn-out and exhausted, so much would be miraculously produced and provided.

In this commandment we are being once again reminded that the commandments, and its rewards are matters that are beyond logic. That is the true greatness and strength in its observance. The fact that we are not allowed to work one day of the week, or one year in the seven day cycle, is as beyond understanding, as the reward G-d promises those who observe this commandment.

The true success in following the commandments of the Torah-Bible is because it is a way of life presented by G-d Himself. Our commitment to its observance is not to the logic of its practices in our minds. Keeping the commandments, is developing a relationship with G-d who is greater than the limitations of nature.

The Sabbatical teaches, that when we fulfill G-ds will because we are doing it for Him, and not for ourselves, the blessings we are attached to are G-dly, defies logic and nature. The reward, is not only in the world to come, but in this world as well.


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